Annual UN meeting seeks to promote more sustainable use of Earth’s resources

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

2 May 2011 – Warning of the consequences of unsustainable consumption and production on the world’s ecosystems, a senior United Nations official today urged Member States to agree on a plan to promote a more efficient and safer use of the Earth’s resources.

“We need to change our consumption and production patterns so that our economies proceed on sustainable paths, and so that we are able to address key global challenges like climate change, water and other resource scarcities, and environmental degradation,” Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said at the opening of the 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

At its annual session at UN Headquarters in New York, the Commission will consider policies to promote sustainable consumption and production, improve the safety of chemical usage, and enhance waste management, transport and mining practices.

“Globally, unsustainable consumption and production threatens to exceed the carrying capacity of life support systems,” Mr. Sha told the 53-member body.

“This imbalance is obvious – whether measured by greenhouse gas concentrations, by the number of endangered species, by rates of deforestation, or by decreases in fish stocks.”

All eyes are on the Commission to launch an ambitious framework this year to support countries and other actors move towards sustainable consumption and production, Mr. Sha said, adding that such an initiative would send the right message and generate positive momentum towards a successful outcome at next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He noted that a 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP on SCP) would promote development that is within the carrying capacity of ecosystems and contribute to progress on the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

“We must respond to calls for an ambitious, feasible and actionable 10YFP on SCP,” he stated. “The 10-year framework must support countries and all stakeholders in scaling up successful initiatives, addressing new and emerging challenges, sharing knowledge widely, accessing technical expertise, forging partnerships and mobilizing financial resources.”

He added that sustainable consumption and production need to be mainstreamed into the thinking of all stakeholders and into the decision-making of governments and other organizations, including the UN system.

“Much more can and must be done across the globe to pursue inclusive and environmentally sound economic growth. We must accelerate our efforts to advance sustainable development and to meet our commitments to future generations,” said Mr. Sha, who also serves as the Secretary-General of the conference set to take place in Rio de Janeiro next June.

He also noted that it is important that the Commission’s session deliver concrete, actionable decisions to ensure access to affordable transport, especially for the rural poor; sound management of chemicals and waste; and an enabling environment for sustainable mining.

Close to 1,000 representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other parts of civil society are attending the Commission’s two-week meeting, which will be the last session before “Rio+20.”

The conference will mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Agenda 21, the blueprint for sustainable development that was agreed to at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.


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